If you've been arrested and have your arraignment coming up, you may be wondering what will happen at the hearing. Many of us have never even been inside a courtroom so going to an arraignment hearing may be nerve wracking and stressful. When someone is being criminally prosecuted, one of the first steps in the process is the arraignment hearing. The arraignment is the first hearing, or court appearance, that the defendant will appear at. In some cases, it is the only time a defendant will have to appear in court before they are charged. If the defendant does not plead guilty or no contest at the arraignment, future court dates may be scheduled. You may be brought to your arraignment by a bailiff if you are in custody at the time of the hearing or you may be given a notice and summoned to the arraignment at a later date. This will depend on when you were arrested, whether or not court is in session, and what crime you committed and the circumstances of that crime. If you are arrested and taken into custody but not given bail or released on your own recognizance, you will be arraigned within 48 hours of your arrest, excluding non-court days. It is your right to be arraigned within a reasonable amount of time after an arrest. This right falls under the Sixth Amendment or your right to a speedy trial. If your arraignment date is set for what you feel is an unreasonable amount of time after your arrest, speak to a criminal defense attorney about your rights. Your case may be able to be dismissed if you are not arraigned in a reasonable amount of time.
At the arraignment, a number of things will happen. Often, you, either individually or in a group of other defendants in the courtroom, will be read your constitutional rights, which include, but may not be limited to, your right to a trial and your right to speak to an attorney before being interrogated. Then you, as the defendant, will be given a copy of the complaint, or the charges, against you. This will also be read to you. At this point, you will be asked how you will plea. If you are not sure how to plea or wish to speak to an attorney before you enter a plea, you have the right to ask to speak to an attorney before making a plea. If you cannot afford an attorney, you can ask to be appointed a public defender. This may be able to be facilitated during the arraignment itself or, if not, a future court date will be set to give you time to discuss your case with an attorney or with a public defender. You may be able to waive your appearance at the arraignment under certain circumstances. To waive your appearance, you must be being charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony, and you need to be pleading not guilty. The courts may not grant your waiver, however, and require you to appear. In some cases, you can have a criminal defense attorney appear in your place. Today, you may also have the option to appear via video conferencing. Speak to a criminal defense attorney if your circumstances prevent you from appearing at your arraignment to see if videoconferencing is an option for you. Keep in mind that the arraignment is limited to a short list of procedures that must be completed but it is not the appropriate time to tell the judge your story or go into the details of the circumstances of the crime. These are things to be addressed at trial, not at the arraignment, so don't try to argue your way out of the charges. Be respectful and only provide the information you are asked or your attorney told you is OK to share. If you plead guilty or no contest at the arraignment, you will convicted of the charge and the judge will provide your sentencing. If you plea not guilty, a future court date will set. In most cases, this next court date could be your trial date. In complex cases, there may need to be future court appearance prior to the hearing. It is OK to plead not guilty, even if you feel the case is not in your favor. The criminal prosecution system is not fool proof; you may have some sort of a defense if there are weaknesses in the prosecution's argument. Speak to an attorney if you want to explore your defense options. A skilled attorney will be able to evaluate your case facts and advise you on how to best proceed with your case. Always go to your arraignment even if you have not had time to speak with an attorney. You can ask for more time to speak to an attorney at the arraignment, ensuring you can come back to court prepared. If you fail to appear at your arraignment can result in the judge issuing a bench warrant for your arrest. If arrested, you will be brought to court for your arraignment anyways and at that point, you may have little chance at obtaining a favorable outcome.
If you or a loved one has recently been arrested and are facing criminal charges in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can listen to your story and help you prepare for your arraignment and any future court dates as well. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.